« السابقةمتابعة »
ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE.
REFLECTIONS ON COMEDY.
COMEDY is a representation of common life; its end is to shew the faults of particular characters on the stage, and to correct the disorder of the people by the fear of ridicule.
The grand object of Comedy is to shew man ridicule; to remind him of what he is exposed to in common life, and what he really meets with in the world, and to teach him to stand on his guard; for a man does not see his own danger, his own picture, his own manners, only by seeing them represented on the stage.
Comedy is intended to lash the follies and imperfections of mankind through the vehicle of ridicule, an art which should ever be considered as the greatest test of wit, breeding, and observation; this art “whose end both at the first, and now, was, and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature, to shew virtue her own features, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure;" is changed into what is vulgarly called a moral kind of entertainment, to which a citizen, it is true, may bring his wife and daughter, with as much safety as to a Methodist chapel, but with equal prospect of improvement.
But, as we mean to treat this subject otherwise than by either investigating its origin, or simply declaiming on its imperfections, it will be but candid to weigh the force of the arguments which are urged by the favourers of this innovated art.
The soundest philosophers have agreed, that ridicule has a much better effect in curing the vices and imperfections of men than the examples of rigid virtue, whose duties are so sublimed, that they for the most part intimidate them from the trial. Were mankind made of that moral pliability of mind, so as to be capable of receiving the sharpest impressions of virtue, then indeed some excuse might stand for the latter practice; but, as their hearts are composed of as many decrees of impero fection as there are degrees in society, what will best and most effectually reforin them should be adopted; hence no characters should be introduced on the stage, by any means whatever, above the tone of morality, whilst the Liar, Rake, Fop, Sharper, Hypocrite, Glutton, &c. &c. should be always brought forward in the warmest colourings of ridicule. Similar characters in life, finding themselves thus constantly exposed on the stage, would indirectly feel the shame of their situations, and either abandon them entirely, or be taught to qualify them so as to be less inimical to society; whereas, at present, by being for the most part precluded as objects of ridicule and contempt, the world loses the benelit of their reformation.
This is virtue! real virtue, and love of truth, independent of opinion, and above the world; this disposition, transferred to the whole of life, perfects a character, and gives it that finish which extorts even the admiration of those who cannot practise it.
Comedy, according to Aristotle, is defined to be “an imitation of the worst of men; when I say worst, (says that great philosopher,) I don't mean in all sorts of vices, but only in ridicule, which is properly a deformity withoat pain, and which never contributes to the destruction of the subject in which it is.” This definition of Aris totle's is corroborated by Horace, Quintillian, Boileau, Mulgrave, and the long line of illustrious authors, who have written on this subject.' Its manners, senti, ments, and diction, are governed by the same laws as those of Tragedy; that is, the first should be good, or suitable to the characters, and the two last correspondent to the first.
Comedy has no occasion to raise its favourite personages on pedestals; since its principal end is not to make us admire them, in order to render them more easily the objects of pity; the most it aims at, 'is to give us a little uneasiness for them,' arising from the crosses they meet with, (which ought rather to be a sort of disappointment than real misfortune,) in order to give us more satisfaction at seeing them happy at the unravelling of the piece; its design being to make us laugh at the expense of ridiculous persons, purging us of those faults which exposes us, that we may become fitter for society, Comedy, therefore, cnanot render the sidiculousness of its personages too visible to the spectators, who, whilst they discover with ease the ridicule of others, will still find it difficult to discern that which is within themselves.
Now we cannot distinguish nature so easily when she appears in strange customs, manners, and apparel, as when she is clad after our own fashion: the Spanish, Italian, and French decorum, for instance, being not so well known to us as that of England, we are not so shocked with the ridicule of a person that acts against thein, as we should, were this personaye to violate the laws of decency established in this country.
The Spaniards have a turn to find the ridicule in things much more than the French, and the Italians, who are much better comedians, excel'in expressing it. In short, that agreeable turn, that gaiety which maintains the delicacy of its character without falling into dullness or buffoonery, that elegant raillery which is the flower of wit, is the qualification which Comedy requires.
We must, however, remember, that the artificial ridicule which is required on the theatre, must be only a transcript of the ridicule which nature affords. Comedy is only naturally written when, being on the theatre, a man can fancy himself in a private family, or a particular part of the town; for, when the Romans sat at Teo rence's Comedies, they imagined themselves in a private party, finding nothing there which they had not been accustomed to find in their usual conversations.
DAVID GARRICK, Esq. When this great actor was at Paris, he visited the celebrated Madame Clairon. In the course of his conversation with her, he asked her if she had ever heard of the Gamut of the Passions. She expressing her ignorance of what he meant, he immediately, with his voice and countenance, ran over the whole scale and compass of them, beginning with the most siinple, and gradually proceeding to the most complex.
A friend of Mr. Garrick asking him, why a whisper of his was heard throughout the whole theatre, whilst the loud declamation of many of his colleagues was occasionally completely unintelligible, “ the blockheads," replied he,“ have no idea of distinctness in their speaking; they know not how to acquire
“A temperance that may give it smoothuess.”
Mr. Garrick had been told that no more Letters of Junius were to appear in the Public Advertiser.
He mentioned to one of the noblemen about the Court what he had heard. Junius, who had his eyes every where, was informed that Mr. Garrick had given this intelligence. He caused a letter to be sent to him at the theatre just as he was going upon the stage to play one of his great parts. The letter was virulent and abusive, hinting to him, that he might well be contented
Plausu sui guudere theatri, and not interfere in politics. The letter produced its effect, and this wonderful actor for once played ill.
From Mr. Jones's History of Brecknockshire. “ In consequence of an affray in the high-street of Brecknock, in which David unfortunately killed his kinsman, Ritsiart Fawr o'r Slwch, he was compelled to fly into England; and, to avoid a threatened prosecution for the murder, attached himself to the Lancastrian party, to whose interest he ever afterwards most faithfully adhered. There can be little doubt but that Shakespeare, in his burlesque character of Fluellin, intended David Gam, though for obvious reasons, as his decendants were then well known and respected in the English court, he chose to disguise his name. I have called Fluellin a burlesqued character, because his pribbles and prabbles, which are generally out-Heroded, sound ludicrously to an English as well as a Welch ear; yet after all, Llewelyn is a brave soldier and an honest fellow; he is admitted into a considerable degree of intimacy with the king, and stands high in his good opinion, which is a strong presumptive proof, notwithstanding Shakespeare, the better to conceal his object, describes the death of Sir David Gam, that he intended David Llewelyn by this portrait of the testy Welchman; for there was no other person of that country in the English army, who could have been supposed to have been supon such terms of familiarity with the king; and it must be observed, that Llewelyn was the name by which he was known in that army, and not Gam, or squiuting, for which epithet, though it was afterwards assumed by his family, he would probably have knocked down any man who dared to address him. : By his behaviour on this memorable day, he in some measure made amends for a life of violence and rapine, and raised his posterity into riches and respect; but alas ! how weak, how idle is family pride, how unstable is worldly wealth! at different periods between the years 1550 ard 1700, I have seen the descendants of this hero of Agincourt (who lived like a wolf, and died like a lion,) in possession of every acre of ground in the county of Brecon; at the commencement of the eighteenth century, I find one of them common bellman of the town of Breckáock, and before the conclusion, two others supported by the inhabitants of the parish where they resided; and even the name of Gam is in, the legitimate line, extinct."
CUSTOMS OF THE THEATRE, &c.'
IN THE TIME OF SHAKSPEARE:
By Edmund Malone, Esq.
The amusements of our ancestors, before the commencement of the play, were of various kinds. While some part of the audience entertained themselves with reading, or playing at cards, others were employed in Jess refined occupations ; in .drinking ale, or smoking tobacco : with these, and nuts and apples, they were furnished by male attendants, of whose clamour a satirical writer of the time of James I. loudly complains. In 1633. when Pryone published his Histriomastix, women smoked tobacco in the playhouses as well as men.
It was a common practice to carry table-books to the theatre, and either from curiosity, or enmity to the author, or some other motive, to write down passages of the play that was represented; and there is reason to believe that the imperfect and mutilated copies of one or two
-Prythee, what's the play?
I'll see't, and sit it out whate'er.
Notes from Black-fryers, by H. Fitz-Jeoffery, 1617.